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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Short End of the Stick (02/20/14)

TITLE: Stuck in Gear
By Allen Povenmire


“Oh, man, here he goes again, with that cockamamie pleading he does every Sunday,” Greg leaned over and whispered to his wife. Carla’s brow creased with concerned annoyance as she shot a glance at her husband of 29 years.

Pastor Burns continued with his urgent plea of invitation. Greg’s eyes rolled upward, as his lips moved with the Pastor’s familiar lines...

“Repent of your sin.”

“Ask Jesus into your heart!”

“Don’t wait! Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Today is the day of Salvation!”

There was a day when that last song was a real struggle for Greg. Oftentimes, he’d slipped out of the sanctuary, excusing himself to use the restroom, or something, anything, to avoid the unexplainable pressure he’d felt. But, over the years, he’d learned to overcome the Pastor’s coercing, using the same resistance he would apply to annoying salesmen.

Oh, he was no atheist, mind you. But he’d always tried to keep God in perspective. Carla and his now grown children had all succumbed to the convincing of the Pastor, and he never interfered with their spirituality, as long as it didn’t cause conflicts with his life. He’d regularly brought the family to church. Heck, he even helped take up the offering and such, whenever called upon.

Greg’s mind drifted toward his new fiery red convertible sitting out the church parking lot. Man, did he love that thing. Stick shift in hand, Greg felt a power surge his middle-aged life had been lacking...and the attention it brought from the female population was an option the salesman hadn’t mentioned. Maybe that brunette in accounting would finally turn her pretty head his way when he passed by...

“We’ll sing one more verse, one last chance to give your heart to Christ.
Won’t you surrender to Him today?”

Pastor Burns’ final plea jerked Greg back out his bucket seat. His knuckles had whitened, gripping the back of the pew, mentally shifting from second to third gear. Just then, he noticed Bernard Myers, slowly heading up the aisle, tears streaming down his face.

“Oh, geez. This’ll slow the procedure,” Greg grimaced to himself. “Myers has always been a little weak in the knees.”

Glancing over his shoulder, he saw Martha Myers weeping uncontrollably as her husband embraced Pastor Burns.

Greg’s feet shuffled back and forth. An old familiar twinge bit into his chest. Turning away from the proceedings, he gazed out into the parking lot. He thought he’d hear some rumbling earlier in the service. Probably from that old pipe organ the church had treasured for years, but maybe it was thunder...

“I need to go check and make sure the top’s up,” Greg blurted out to Carla. “Meet you in the car.”

Carla eyes followed as her husband scurried to get out of the pew, practically knocking over dear, old Opal Whitney sitting in her customary seat at the end. He nearly bolted out the back of the sanctuary, almost as if the place was on fire.

Carla took her place in line to congratulate her new brother in Christ, Bernard Myers. The line inched along slowly. While she knew Greg would be impatiently waiting, this was such a precious moment for Bernard and her good friend and coworker, Martha. She'd prayed with Martha many times in the nurse’s lounge for this moment. It would be worth whatever squawk Greg would put up...

“See you next Sunday,” Carla shouted joyously at Millie Carpenter as she lifted the handle on the passenger side door. But Greg hadn’t unlocked the door, so she pecked on the window a couple of times to get his attention.

Getting no response, Carla leaned over and started to rap on the window again. She stopped and screeched out loud.

“What is it, Carla??” Millie called out.

Staring into the car, Carla saw her husband of 29 years slumped over the wheel of his pride and joy. Those piercing blue eyes that once had captured her heart, were now transfixed in a stare - a lifeless stare that she’d seen all too often at work.

People began racing all about, shouting, screaming for help, but Carla stood frozen, hypnotized by situation. Her eyes darted, capturing mental images...the tinge of gray at Greg’s temples that she’d previously somehow looked past, a slight paunch that she’d never really seen, and several brown age spots on the back of his right hand...a hand still firmly gripping the stick shift of his fiery red convertible.

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This article has been read 391 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lois Farrow02/27/14
Very powerful and well written. Sad story well told.
Brenda Rice 02/27/14
You present an all to real situation.

Your story is touching and well written. It is so unfortunate that Greg choose the longer end of the stick.

Thanks for sharing.
Dusty Fontaine02/27/14
I enjoyed your story. It perfectly captured the mind-set of a man just putting his time in church.

There are several sentences in which you have left out a word, like "in" or "the." Also, there was no need to mention that he was your husband of 29 years a second time.

These are small things and I don't mean to nit-pick. I just thought you might like to know.

I hope you do well.

Catherine Craig 02/27/14
This has impact. I like it. Great use of words!
C D Swanson 02/28/14
Excellent work. Your entry was multi-layered and intricately woven with room to ponder and reflect.

Nicely done!

God bless~
Toni Hammer02/28/14
Dang. That was an intense ending. I always appreciate the writers here that don't always tie everything up in pretty ribbons. Well done.

Just one small note, I believe you want to use "heard" in this sentence: "He thought he’d hear some rumbling earlier in the service."

Great, well told story. I look forward to reading more of your work.
lynn gipson 02/28/14
Wow! What a powerful ending. This gave me chills. I almost died before I was saved. Then God decided to use me as a writer.

Terrific writing. Definitely a winner in my book.
Noel Mitaxa 03/01/14
Sobering in its descriptiveness and clarity, since we can't know how long we have. Great title as well.
Danielle King 03/01/14
Brilliant writing with a sad but bang on topic ending.
Hannah R03/01/14
Wow, you had me captured from beginning to the sad end. I laughed at the beginning part. :) What a smack-hard ending. Very sobering.
Bea Edwards 03/05/14
You created a compelling twist at the end of your story.
One tinge of red-
I think you forgot the word 'the' before situation.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/06/14
Congratulations on ranking 9th in your level. The highest rankings can be found on the message boards.